Cecilia Nobre ELT Blog

How to boost your lessons with 20 online tools

How to boost your online lessons

After two years of teaching online, I am convinced that this was the best decision I have made in my 17-year career in ELT. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching face-to-face, but I also love the freedom and flexibility that online teaching offers.

Having said that, I have selected 18 tools that will boost your online lessons. Mind you, these tools are useful for face-to-face lessons as well.

1. Video Conference 

I gave up on Skype 2 years ago because Zoom won my heart. You need a reliable video conference platform. I also love the annotation tools that are at hand and the possibility of recording the lessons for post-observation and reflection. Oh, don’t forget to share your screen with your student to use it as your live board.



Using Zoom and Padlet

Resource I love: Zoom

 2. Screen-capture

Making video tutorials on how to use certain tools or even send a two-minute video giving homework directions can be really convenient. The idea is to share your screen and explain simultaneously what you expect your learner to do.

Resource I love: Zoom again and Screen-o-Matic

3. Curate your link in just one place (or in 2 places)

Some teachers have asked me how I find inspiration and save interesting several links. I can’t remember all the websites I’ve read by heart;  therefore, bookmarking your favourite links, articles and videos may come in handy. I’ve been doing that since 2008 and today I have collected over 10,000 links on Diigo. You can save the links under different keywords, which will then make it easier to find.

Resources I love: Diigo and Google Keep

4. Schedule your lessons online 

I still enjoy using paper diaries but I had to surrender to booking my lessons online and activate the notifications. It goes without saying that, if you have a Gmail account, it synchronises with your phone and you can also share your calendar with a nice reminder with your student (especially, say, it’s a makeup class which is not at their regular times).

Resources I love: Google Calendar

5. Make online presentations 

When planning your lesson, you can use an array of tools that will help you create ready-to-use templates in a few minutes. I have to admit I don’t have a favourite one for that matter so I try to vary the tools from time to time.

Resources I love: Emaze, Canva, Spark Adobe and Padlet

6. Organise your tools 

 Perhaps that’s not a new thing to you but I could not leave this wonderful resource behind. What is really helpful and important in teaching online is how and where to store your videos, reports, lesson recordings, students’ assignments etc. I use Google Drive for everything, from sharing my student’s homework to sending the video tutorials. It’s practical and effective.

Resources I love: Google Drive

7. Explore the power of student’s voice 

I find voice recording extremely valuable data to collect in order to assess my students’ speaking skills, which I feel is a rather overlooked task by educators. What you can do is to assign spoken homework via Vocaroo or Soundcloud and ask your students to send the recording back to you (via Google Drive). You can then assess their input by recording the feedback as well and sending it to them.

Resources I love: Vocaroo and Soundcloud

8. Make good use of other teachers’ lesson plans that are freely available online

Some teachers do an amazing job and are so generous to share their lesson plans online. Alternatively, you may look at big publishers’ websites for free lesson plans as well.

Resources I love: Rachael Robert’s blog, Blog de Cristina, Ricardo Barros’ blog,  OUP website and OneStopEnglish.

9. Interact with your students out of lesson times

It’s not because you teach online that there is no chance of building rapport with your students. By using these classroom management platforms, you can engage with your learners and create that togetherness environment.

Resources I love: Google Classroom and Flipgrid


How about you? Which tools would you add to this list?


Disal’s Webinar: Teaching 1:1 Online

So yesterday I delivered a webinar hosted by Livraria Disal on teaching 1:1 Online and it was great! There was a staggering number of 650 subscribers and once there were over 200 participants in the room. That blew my mind! I’d like to thank everyone who attended and wrote comments and questions.


You can read the presentation here ( all the links are clickable and you can watch a sample lesson)


  • If you’re interested in joining the course Teaching 1:1 Online, fill out the form here. The course will start in January 2018. It’s a 3-week course full of hands-on tips and support from me.

A Conversation lesson: Is saving money worth it?

Almost everybody needs to save money, so I thought this lesson plan may come handy.

Topic: Taking extreme measures to save money and saving money in the household bills

Aims: Debate the best and worst ways to save money through analysing a humourous text and watching a video.

Age/Level: Adults / B1, B2

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Materials: Presentation, Timeout article and Youtube video

 Worksheets: Article1 – ways to save money  & Videoactivity – ways to save money

You can use the presentation here

Lesson outline

Lead-in: Discuss Rita Rodney’s quote. Ask students: How do you save money? What’s the most extreme or embarrassing thing you’ve done to save money?

Pre-reading task: Show collage of 5 pictures and tell them: You are going to read an article where some Londoners share the most extreme things they have done to save money. Can you predict some of the things they did by looking at the pictures?

Talk about the picture from the article. How can students relate the picture to the heading of the article?

Reading for gist: Ask students to read the text quickly, without focusing on single words or expressions. Ask them the questions.

Answer key: a) False  b) True  c) False  d) True

Reading for specific information: Read the text thoroughly and ask the questions.

Answer key: a) 70p pretzel and free coffee  b) 30 minutes  c) Answers vary  d) To save up to move to Manchester.   e) Answers vary   f) Answers vary   g) Answers vary

Pre-listening task: Show them the pictures and ask: What are the best ways to save money on your utility bills, phone, TV and rent?

While-listening task: Tell them that they are going to watch a video on how to save money on your monthly bills. Ask them: Have they mentioned any of the tips discussed in the previous task?

Post-listening tasks: 

  1. Students watch the video again up to 2:48 and fill in the sentences.                       Answer key:  a) pricey   b) Binge-watching / a little bit / hundreds of dollars                 c) willing to / satisfied   d) apps / track / monthly   e) When it comes to / homeowners
  2. Students watch the video from 2:48 and answer the questions.                                             Answer key:  a) pre-paid and family plan   b) they can get tax deductions for your phone expenses  c) Housing   d) It may bring substantial discounts    e) answers vary   f) answers vary   g) answers vary   h) answers vary

Focus on Grammar: May, Might and Could for giving suggestions

Answer key:  Top-down ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 1 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 )


Interview with Jamie Keddie

I have been a fan of Jamie Keddie’s work for quite some time and, it’s no surprise that I’ve been chasing him for an interview for a while as well.

I finally managed to interview him and it was a delight! We talked about videos in the classroom, his inspiring book Videotelling and the plenary he’s going to deliver next month in Rio de Janeiro for BrELT on the road, Rio edition ( there’s still time to enroll, just check it out here)


Interview Part 1 is here

Interview Part 2 is here

You can also subscribe to receive his lesson plans every Sunday here